A small business owner has been left frustrated after finding that BT was trying to charge him hundreds of pounds a year to advertise his firm in the phone book, without first getting his permission.
Stephen Slyth, who owns Foodmaster Refrigeration Group in Essex, said he received a letter from the telecoms firm advising him he would be charged £22.99 a month plus VAT to keep his company advertised in the phone book.
Equating to more than £27.59 a month with VAT added and £331.06 for the year, Stephen said he was left ‘very angry’ by the letter, as it advised it would be adding the money onto his usual phone and broadband bill.
To ensure he wasn’t going to get charged by the firm, Stephen was told he has to call a number to cancel the payment.
Small firms have been getting letters from BT charging them to advertise in the phone book
It took him over an hour before he connected to the customer service team to tell them he was not interested in having an advert in the phone book.
When he asked BT how the bill came about in the first place he was told that a year ago the firm sent out free listings for a year.
After the initial 12 months free period, a fee was due each month.
The letter, he said, looked like it could be junk mail and without close reading, the recipient may not even realise they were going to be charged.
He made a formal complaint to the company but received an email last week saying the case had been closed.
A BT spokesperson said: ‘We understand that Mr Slyth faced a longer than usual call waiting time when he recently tried to get in touch with BT to cancel his Phone Book listing.
The BT phone book has numbers for local businesses and home addresses available
‘During the Covid-19 pandemic, call waiting times have occasionally been longer than usual due to high demand, but giving our customers a great experience remains our priority.
‘When Mr Slyth took out his BT service, we provided him with a non-chargeable listing in the business classified section of his local phone book for a limited time.
‘We have now spoken to Mr Slyth and cancelled his Phone Book listing in line with his request.
‘As part of our offer for businesses taking out a BT phone line for the first time, all new customers are currently offered a free listing for their business in the classified section of the Phone Book for the first 12 months.
‘Following this period the classified entry becomes chargeable. BT actively notifies customers in writing prior to any chargeable period coming into force, and customers will receive an annual reminder.’
He is not the only small business to find themselves stuck with the charge, however, with other owners taking to social media to share their frustration.
This Twitter user said as someone who is self-employed, he was also charged by BT
Another user said they spent 30 minutes on the phone waiting to speak to someone at BT
Those looking to cancel their subscription will need to contact BT directly to stop any payments being added to their bill.
Non BT customers are able to advertise and have an entry in the Phone Book if they wish and this is normally arranged via their own phone and broadband provider or by them directly contracting for the service.
Firms will not be automatically charged if they are not with BT as a telephone or broadband provider.
The BT Phone Book is the only remaining directory listing published in hard copy in the UK and is circulated to more than 21million homes every year.
The Yellow Pages was one of the most popular phone books but its print edition ceased all publication in 2019 after five decades.
It blamed the move to online searches as the reason for it being scrapped.
Instead of the Yellow Pages, Yell, which owned the publication, now offers a free listing to businesses on yell.com.